AUGUST 26, 2015

Dove season outlook: Load up on shotgun shells

Opening day is Sept. 1, surveys show birds aplenty
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PHOENIX – For dove hunters, it’s not too early to start going over that pre-hunt checklist:

Shotgun . . .
Hunting license . . .
Migratory bird stamp . . .
Ice chest . . .
Shotgun shells . . .

Uh, about that last item – you just might want to pick up more than you think you’re going to need.

Once again, Arizona’s skies are expected to be filled with flight after flight of doves when the 2015 season gets underway Sept. 1. And, once again, the daily bag limit is 15 mourning and white-winged doves, of which no more than 10 may be white-winged doves.

Let’s do some math. With five being the average number of shotgun shells spent per dove harvested (some say it’s significantly higher), that’s five birds per box. If you’re an “average” wing-shooter, it will take three boxes to bag your limit.

Of course, now with a 15-bird limit (remember when it was 10?), that means more of that rich, dark meat that tastes delicious, whether it’s braised, roasted or grilled.

The possession limit is 45 mourning and white-winged doves in the aggregate after opening day, of which no more than 15 may be taken in any one day. Of the 45 dove possession limit, only 30 may be white-winged doves, of which no more than 10 may be taken in any one day. There is no daily bag or possession limit on Eurasian collared-doves.

Johnathan O’Dell, a small game biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, predicts an above-average season for white-winged doves, which are being found in large numbers near agricultural crops, especially if small seeds – millet, sorghum, sunflower – are available. He said mourning doves also are concentrating where food and water are easiest to find.

If there’s a wild card, it’s monsoon storms, which could trigger the beginning of the white-winged dove migration to southwestern Mexico.

“The monsoon could start the migration soon, but there will still be plenty of birds to hunt for opening day and the rest of the early season (which runs through Sept. 15),” O’Dell said.

Here are a few things to remember to make the most of the upcoming season:

A simplified license structure implemented in January 2014 includes a $5 license for youth hunters ages 10 to 17. Children 9 and under do not need a license when accompanied by a licensed adult (two children per adult). Licenses can be purchased from any license dealer, regional department office or online at

Hunters 18 and older must purchase an Arizona Migratory Bird Stamp for $5 from any license dealer or regional department office.

Shooting hours are 30 minutes before legal sunrise until legal sunset. On opening day in central Arizona, legal sunrise will be 6:02 a.m. Figure up to nine minutes earlier for eastern areas and nine minutes later for western areas.

One fully feathered wing must remain attached to each harvested dove until it reaches the hunter’s home.

Keep in mind that dove hunters are responsible for cleaning up after themselves. Shell casings (shotgun hulls) and associated debris constitute litter and must be picked up and packed out. Littering while hunting or fishing are revocable violations, and a conviction can result in the loss of hunting privileges for up to five years.

For everything “dove,” visit

Dove hunters play an important role in conservation. Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) funds are comprised of excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment (including 11 percent on ammunition), the benefit of which comes right back to Arizona for habitat improvements, shooting ranges, boating access and more.

Finally, be sure to check out the department’s Facebook page ( In the spirit of the 15-dove limit and 15-day season, follow our countdown of the top 15 reasons to go dove hunting. That starts Monday. Then, beginning Sept. 1, look for the first of 15 delicious ways to prepare that harvest, from dove poppers and dove chili to Dutch-over doves and dove kabobs.